4 April 2008
We heard a slam of the neighbour’s front door, thought nothing of it, and went about our business of preparing ourselves for an early night.
What we didn't know, was that our neighbour was being burgled and had come home to disturb the thieves who made off, escaping out of his back door.
Mrs Monk had been warned the day before, by our friend Angie to make sure we had locked our back door, even if we were in the house, because these burglars had become brazen enough to enter regardless of who might or might not be in the house at the time.
The burgled neighbour alerted us about what had happened, and we decided to review our security arrangements, and yes we would indeed lockup with renewed diligence.
Mrs Monk got over her initial fear and appointed herself teacher-detective, and went about interviewing neighbours, advising and pontificating on household security.
The very next day after the burglary, Mrs Monk surprised me by inviting two policeman into the house for a cup of tea, one large young man with huge black shoes, and one petite lady with a smile. They were in fact special community officers, but were nevertheless impressively tooled up and indeed trussed-up with bullet proof attire and radio communication.
They gave us good advice and passed on some gossip about the good and the bad and the ugly of Leigh on Sea.
As soon as they left Mrs Monk decided we needed a bottle of wine from the Co-op and she asked me to drop everything and escort her, so that she could give me an urgent briefing on her new and important security measures, as we walked.
She was already on her way out of the door and I followed her dutifully.
I have a habit of patting my trouser pockets to make sure I have my keys in my pocket, before I shut the front door, but I was unable to do that, before Mrs Monk shut the door behind us.
After I subsequently patted my pockets, I reported to Mrs Monk that I did not have my keys. I asked her if she had her keys, but I already knew the answer. I looked up at all the house windows to confirm that all windows were indeed securely fastened in accordance with our new diligent window closing and window locking procedures.
Mrs Monk characteristically started to blame the only person who was available and ignored the fact that she had shut the door.
The only other key is held by our friend Angie and she was on her way to the Lake District. Mrs Monk nevertheless called her using my phone. Angie did not answer the phone. Mrs Monk left a message nevertheless, but knowing that it was too late to catch Angie.
We borrowed a ladder from a neighbour, and I climbed over our fence at the back of the house, negotiating the pile of rubbish, not all of which was ours. I knew that all the neighbours had been warned about daylight burglaries and were invited to report anything suspicious. As I climbed to the top of the fence I felt particularly conspicuous, and indeed burglar-like.
I just knew that every window and the back door was securely locked, but I had worked on a strategy. All I had to do was put my arm through Cat Flap Charlie’s cat flap, reach up for the key in the lock on the inside, and the problem would be solved.
I laid down on the ground but after much straining and stretching I soon realised that I would not make it. Arm too short. Door to tall. Buggered.
I got up and reconsidered my options. As I did so, Cat Flap Charlie stepped out of the house, by way of cat flap, to see what was happening.
Charlie has a way of leading us to where he is fed and looked at the door meaningfully as if to say, “Well, open it,”
I started to work out which window to break and what weapon to use. Charlie stepped into and out of house some more, taunting me with his catlike advantage over me.
Mrs Monk was three houses away but I heard her cry out in the distance. Angie had responded on the phone, and had not yet left for her Lake District holiday.
As I waited for Angie to come over with the keys, I looked into the kitchen through the kitchen glass window that I had contemplated smashing. Charlie was inside by his empty bowl, looking out at me wondering what on earth I was doing in the back garden.